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Tag Archive | "wildlife"

Feathered visitor nesting in your yard this spring?


Goslings: Goslings are a common sight in Michigan in the spring.

Goslings: Goslings are a common sight in Michigan in the spring.

Michigan residents may get a surprise this spring in their garden, flower box or even in the landscaping by their office building. Bird nests can be found in some unusual locations.

Ducks’ nests, particularly mallard nests, seem to appear just about everywhere in the spring. Female mallards commonly will build nests in landscaping, gardens or other locations that humans may consider inappropriate, but the duck may think otherwise.

While finding a duck’s nest in an unexpected location may be a surprise, there is no need for concern.

“She will be a very quiet neighbor and with her cryptic coloration, she may go largely unnoticed,” said Holly Vaughn Joswick, Department of Natural Resources wildlife outreach technician. “Leave the duck alone and try to keep dogs, cats and children away from the nest.”

Mallard brood: A mother duck will lead her ducklings to water shortly after they hatch.

Mallard brood: A mother duck will lead her ducklings to water shortly after they hatch.

If she is successful and her eggs hatch, the mother will lead her ducklings to the nearest body of water, often the day they hatch.

“Don’t worry if you do not live near water – the mother duck knows where to take her ducklings to find it,” added Vaughn Joswick.

You can expect the female mallard to sit on the nest for about a month prior to the eggs hatching. If the nest fails on its own – something that happens regularly – Joswick advises to just wish her luck on her next attempt.

Canada geese sometimes build nests near houses or in parks, often near water. Similar to mallards, Canada geese will lead their young to water soon after they hatch. Adult geese can be quite protective of their nests and their goslings and may chase people or pets away by hissing and running or flying toward the intruder. If possible, try to avoid the area.  If this is not possible, carry an umbrella and gently scare the bird away.

Those who have been fortunate enough to have a bird’s nest built in their yard, in a tree or on the ground, may have noticed that the baby birds are starting to outgrow their nests. Baby birds learn to fly through trial and error. They may feel they are ready to fly, but their flight feathers might not have fully grown in yet. It is common to find baby birds on the ground after an attempt to fly. If this is the case, please do not touch them. Their parents will continue to take care of them, even when they are on the ground.

Touching a baby bird will not cause the adults to abandon it; however, if you move a baby bird the parents may be unable to find and care for it. It is better to leave the baby bird alone to be raised by its parents.

In the event that you find a chick on the ground that is sparsely feathered, it may have accidentally fallen from the nest before it is ready to fledge (learn to fly). If you know where the nest is, you can put the chick back in the nest ONLY if you can do so safely.

Birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by law and must be left alone. Unless you have a license, taking a baby bird or eggs from the wild is breaking the law. The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects migratory birds and their nests and eggs.

This year marks the centennial of the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds – known as the Migratory Bird Treaty – signed Aug. 16, 1916. Three other treaties were signed shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. The Migratory Bird Treaty, the three additional treaties and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are the cornerstones of efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders. To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless a person is licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including birds, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when it is obvious the parent is dead or the animal is injured. A licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Rehabilitators must adhere to the law, must have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals, and will work to return the animal to the wild, where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting www.michigandnr.com/dlr/.

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DNR: Keep Michigan’s wildlife wild


Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

 

Each spring and summer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is flooded with calls as people across the state run into a common dilemma—they have come across a baby animal and desperately want to help.

Hannah Schauer, a DNR wildlife education technician, spends time talking with the public about why it is better to leave baby animals in the wild.

The vast majority of the time these wild animals do not need our help,” Schauer said. “Wildlife can survive on a day-to-day basis without help from humans.”

Survival adaptations

White-tailed deer fawns often are left alone by their mothers in an attempt to keep predators from finding them. Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature. Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

White-tailed deer fawns often are left alone by their mothers in an attempt to keep predators from finding them.
Baby rabbits are among the young wildlife often encountered by those getting out in nature.
Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Most wild critters have a few survival tricks up their sleeves. Take white-tailed deer, for example.

Female deer typically birth their fawns in May and June. A newborn fawn is unsure of its footing and is unable to keep up with its mother. So, the mother deer hides her small, spotted fawn in a secluded spot for safe keeping.

The mother deer then intentionally leaves her fawn alone to help increase its chances of survival. Beyond the spotted camouflage and the instinct to lie very still, fawns have an additional survival adaptation. Fawns are born with very little scent, making it challenging for predators to find them.

An adult deer, however, has plenty of scent to it, and—being a large animal—is fairly easy to spot,” Schauer said. “So, rather than hang around and draw attention to where she has carefully hid her fawn, the mother deer opts to graze elsewhere.”

The doe returns periodically to nurse her fawn and is usually not too far away. It doesn’t take long before the fawn is strong enough to keep up with its mother and then has a better chance of outrunning a predator. Fawns are rarely abandoned.

Wildlife concerns

DNR wildlife staff suggests that if you happen to find a fawn or other baby animal, please leave it in the wild.

Taking an animal from the wild is not only illegal, it is dangerous. A wild animal, especially a baby, may seem harmless, but they rarely are. If you bring a baby animal into your home and it actually survives, it will eventually grow up.

As animals grow, they will experience hormonal changes as well as physical and behavioral changes,” Schauer said. “Raccoons, for example, are known for exhibiting aggressive behavior as they age.”

An animal may act tame, but it is instinctively a wild animal and will act like one.

Besides aggressive and potentially dangerous behaviors, wild animals can carry diseases and parasites, many of which can be transmitted to your pets or to you or your children. The laws prohibiting possession of wild animals are in place to keep people, as well as the wild animals, safe.

Tougher rules

In some cases, the DNR must put even stricter regulations in place to look after the health of an entire species. Such is the case in central Michigan, where in May 2015 the state’s first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) was confirmed in a free-ranging, white-tailed deer from Ingham County.

The disease is a central nervous system affliction found in deer, elk and moose (cervids). It attacks the brain of infected animals, creating small lesions that result in death. Chronic wasting disease is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or by contact with saliva,urine, feces, blood and carcass parts of an infected animal or infected soil.

Once it arrives, CWD can spread through the deer population and all deer infected with the disease will die. Because infected deer may not exhibit symptoms right away, you cannot tell just by looking at a deer if it is suffering from CWD.

Taking an unhealthy deer from the environment and attempting to rehabilitate it has the potential to increase the spread of CWD. Bringing infected deer into contact with other deer in rehabilitation centers, can risk contaminating those facilities. For that reason, rehabilitation of deer in Clinton, Shiawassee and Ingham counties in Lower Michigan is prohibited. As new cases of CWD are discovered, the list of counties where rehabilitation of deer is prohibited may grow. 

So far, CWD has not been found in the Upper Peninsula. To continue monitoring the situation, the DNR plans to ask hunters this fall to voluntarily submit deer heads for testing in the counties bordering Wisconsin.

In Lower Michigan, there is mandatory testing for deer harvested within the CWD Management Zone and voluntary testing occurring elsewhere for any hunter who wants to submit a deer head. To learn more about CWD and how you can help, visit mi.gov/cwd.

Wildlife rehabilitators

Ultimately, a wild animal’s best chance of survival is staying in the wild. This is especially true for baby animals.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may legally possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal in Michigan. The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. However, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild.

Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. These rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild where it will again realize its best chance for survival.

A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Michigan can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling your local DNR office.

Look for #KeepMiWild on the DNR’s social media this spring and summer and share the importance of keeping wildlife in the wild.

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Leave wildlife in the wild 


 

A white-tailed deer fawn waiting for its mother to return. Although fawns may appear to have been abandoned, that’s rarely the case, and leaving them alone will help them survive.

A white-tailed deer fawn waiting for its mother to return. Although fawns may appear to have been abandoned, that’s rarely the case, and leaving them alone will help them survive.

Do not take baby animals from the wild this spring

Spring is nearly here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young to view animals from a distance, so they are not disturbed.

It is important to remember that many species of wildlife “cache” (hide) their young for safety. These babies are not abandoned; they simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them.

“Please resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife technician for the DNR. “Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.”

Schauer added that some rescued animals that do survive may become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild.

“Habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behavior. For example, habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they get older and reach breeding age.”

White-tailed deer fawns are one of the animals most commonly rescued by well-intentioned citizens. It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn, which allows the fawn to go undetected by nearby predators. While fawns seem abandoned, they rarely are. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way. The best chance for their survival is to leave them in the wild. If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it, as this might leave your scent and could attract predators. Give it plenty of space and leave the area quickly. The mother deer will return for her fawns when she feels it is safe, but may not return if people or dogs are present.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Please remember, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. Licensed rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild, where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling your local DNR office.

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Walt’s Stream Crossing


 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Time outdoors is refreshing but can be life threatening if one does not learn to read the landscape. It is easy to become disoriented and lost. It is easier to get lost in Michigan than in the mountainous west. When hiking unfamiliar territory in the west, I use mountain peaks and ridges to keep my bearing. In Michigan, a compass is more essential because one cannot see distinctive landmarks in the distance.

On cloudy days when the sun is obscured, it is difficult to maintain orientation.

In our personal home range, we become familiar with objects and know exactly where we are and how to get to specific locations. Going to and from work, school, or regular haunts, it becomes so familiar that we can almost travel the routes blind folded.

As a teenager, my father-in-law hunted, hiked, and played in southern Minnesota’s landscape along the Minnesota River near Le Sueur. Wildlife in the forest and fields changed during the year depending on available food and shelter. Walt learned to track animals and it helped him hunt successfully.

Landscape features helped him survive solo outings. The Minnesota River was wide and at certain times of the year was not crossable due to high water. Even in seasons with lower water, crossing required submerging to his thighs or waist. He learned to read the landscape for safe crossing in shallowest water.

To cross the river, Walt would seek a bend in the river where a sandbar extended from the inside of a curve toward the downstream bank on the opposite shore. Water flowing toward the curve would flow straight into the outside edge of the curve, hit the bank and be diverted toward the center of the river.

Sand and other material carried by the river dropped in the slower current on the inside of the curve and created a sandbar. Directly opposite another sandbar extended toward the center of the river because the stronger current was diverted from the bank to the center of the river. Slower water on the far side dropped sediments.

When Walt crossed the river, he waded on one sand bar, was able to cross deeper water in the center, and finish crossing on the other sandbar. The Minnesota River was wide and reasonably shallow so he could wade water that was usually shallower than the length of his legs.

In February, when the temperatures seldom rose to zero during the day and dropped to -15 to -30 F at night, the river surface froze enough to walk on despite the flowing current beneath. One winter day he was crossing the frozen surface and the current had thinned the ice. He broke through and submerged to his waist. The air was about -20 F.

He scrambled out of the water and started running as fast as he could for home a mile away. Wet clothes on skin draws heat quickly from one’s body. He knew hypothermia would come fast. When he arrived home, his pants were frozen solid everywhere except at the knees where they were constantly flexed as he ran.

Good fortune allowed him to arrive home, cold and shivering instead of becoming a frozen ice statue in the wild country he enjoyed. It was good he crossed the river where it was shallowest. When venturing outside, we should pay attention to the landscape and read its secrets so when the need arises we can safely navigate. Outdoors should be enjoyed and not feared. Fear will dissipate when we become familiar with the outdoors. Spend time with family exploring nature niches during all seasons.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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What a difference a year makes


 

DNR biologists discuss effects of milder winter on wildlife

Canada geese and mallards enjoying a stretch of open water in Ingham County are shown. During this milder winter so far, waterfowl have been able to find more areas of open water for feeding.

Canada geese and mallards enjoying a stretch of open water in Ingham County are shown. During this milder winter so far, waterfowl have been able to find more areas of open water for feeding.

Looking out your window, do you find yourself saying, “This winter is different?”

Remembering last winter, areas of Michigan had not inches, but feet of snow on the ground by mid-November. In stark contrast, this winter, many parts of Michigan didn’t receive any significant snowfall that stayed on the ground, until after Christmas.

With the effects of one of the strongest El Nino weather patterns on record—warmer Pacific Ocean waters producing atmospheric changes in weather thousands of miles away—this winter certainly is different.

Moose are built for cold conditions, with long legs for deep snow and thick fur coats for winter temperatures.

Moose are built for cold conditions, with long legs for deep snow and thick fur coats for winter temperatures.

As a result, weather forecasters are predicting above-average temperatures and drier than normal winter conditions across the northern tier of the country, including Michigan.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists have been fielding inquiries about how the milder conditions might be affecting wildlife this winter.

“The 2014-2015 Michigan winter had record low temperatures for numerous days,” DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason said. “Along with those cold temps, winter brought snow depths that challenged even the most adapted wildlife.”

Waterfowl

Less than a year ago, waterfowl were being negatively affected across Michigan by lakes, rivers and streams freezing completely, or more extensively than usual, leaving smaller areas of open water for ducks and swans to feed. After the last two hard winters, this winter is providing many open water locations.

“Instead of ducks being concentrated in small areas, ducks and swans have good amounts of open water in a mild winter, giving them room to forage and find the food they need,” said Barbara Avers, a DNR waterfowl and wetlands specialist.

The last two winters resulted in some malnourished or dead waterfowl being trapped on the ice, unable to fly. Not this winter.

Smaller mammals

Squirrels never take a break. They are active all year long, and this mild winter provides an easier hunt for food. Less snow to get through equals less energy needed to find food and stay warm.

With a milder winter, snowshoe hares are likely to be under a bit more pressure from predators. Their fur is light brown in the fall and molts to white as the amount of daylight changes. Until snow is on the ground, the white fur stands out, allowing hawks, owls and other predators better opportunities to benefit.

Alternatively, hares this winter should have plenty of food they can easily access.

Skunks and raccoons go into an inactive or dormant state in the winter. This is something they are naturally wired to do to conserve energy. This won’t change with the mild winter. Their late winter mating seasons, won’t be affected. As usual, they will be out and more visible for brief periods of time looking for a mate.

Large mammals

Black bear have this same instinct; their internal clock is telling them they need to conserve energy, regardless of temperature, find a place to den and go into a deep sleep.

What is frequently referred to as a bear hibernating is really a bear in a very deep sleep. Even with the warm fall and warm December, a bear will still den. Black bears also den in southern states, where temperatures and snow levels are much more moderate compared to even a mild Michigan winter.

Bears are triggered to enter their dens by a combination of things, with the amount of daylight being an important main factor. Bears are able to survive the denning period because they bulk up during the fall, gaining 1-2 pounds per day.

Not all animals will benefit from this mild winter.

“Moose are a species that are just built for the cold,” said DNR wildlife research biologist Dean Beyer. “Moose are at their southern extent of their range in the Upper Peninsula.”

Moose, with their long legs and thick winter coat, are built for deep snow and cold temperatures. When moose have their winter coat, and temperatures are warmer than 23 degrees, they become stressed and need to take action to cool down.

“When an animal is stressed, its heart and respiration rates will increase, in turn increasing the amount of energy they are using,” Beyer said. “This December was probably stressful on Michigan moose, as temps were warmer than they normally experience.”

Deer, on the other hand, will find some relief with a mild winter.

For winter survival, deer reduce their movements by about 50 percent and their food intake by about 30 percent. Mild temperatures allow deer to survive on the layer of fat they’ve built up the previous fall.

Just like with moose, the more deer move in the wintertime, the more energy they use. However, deer, with their shorter legs, should be able to find the little food they need in the winter accessible, above and below the snow.

In the Upper Peninsula, the effects of three consecutive harsh winters, combined with the contributions of predators, have been tough on deer populations. Though wildlife biologists caution that one mild winter will not be enough to allow the herd to quickly rebound, the moderation in conditions is beneficial and welcomed.

Birds

Wild turkeys will also have an easier time in a mild winter. Typically at higher snow depths or when a hard snow crust is formed, turkeys rely solely on fruits, nuts and catkins on trees and shrubs—food found above the snow.

When possible, turkeys will continue to scratch through the snow in farmed fields, getting the valuable crumbs left behind by farming equipment, and can even find acorns and beech nuts in the woods.

Ruffed grouse may be more susceptible to predators, without several feet of snowy insulation. These birds can almost dive into the snow and burrow, staying warm and concealed. They typically do well during those hard winters.

Migrating birds generally started leaving and heading south months ago. Therefore, this unseasonably warm winter is something they’ll realize only when they return in the spring.

Some migrating birds that leave relatively late, like sandhill cranes, may stay behind as long as they can find the food they need to make it through the winter, but will continue south if temperatures drop.

Birds like American robins, eastern bluebirds and hermit thrushes may remain in the state in small numbers, because of the mild weather and availability of berries and seeds.

Resident backyard birds, like blue jays, American goldfinches, northern cardinals and black-capped chickadees will use less energy keeping warm during a mild winter, which can result in better body conditions and larger egg clutches or broods of chicks in the spring.

Outlook

So far, the milder winter we’ve experienced has been a welcome break for many people and some wildlife that have had a hard go the last few winters. Although we may think this relative lack of snow and warmer temperatures make this winter different or easier, the winter is certainly not over.

For many animals, the next couple months could still be challenging. However, animals have habits or instincts and are hard-wired to survive. They will adapt.

For more information, visit the DNR’s webpage at www.michigan.gov/wildlifeactionplan.

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Is your yard wildlife-friendly?


DIG-Is-your-yard-wildlife-friendly-Bluebirds

(StatePoint) Being a good neighbor means more than being friendly to the humans across the street, it also means being friendly to the animals in your yard. Making your yard a safe place for local wildlife should be a top lawn care priority.

With that in mind, here are some tips for creating a healthy habitat for local critters.

Be a Valuable Rest Stop

Stock your garden with small native species of trees, shrubs and flowers to give wildlife needed nourishment, as well as cover from predators.

A source of water can also be a great resource for visiting fauna. Whether it’s a pond or a bird bath, be sure this zone is well-maintained so you don’t inadvertently create a haven for unwanted species. In the warmer months when mosquitoes are most active, you should change the bird bath water even more often.

Promote Safety

A bird feeder in your backyard, full of water and seeds, will be the perfect invitation for beautiful migrating and local birds to stop by.

Just be sure your property is safe for birds. Unfortunately, birds don’t see clear glass. As a result, millions of birds die every year by striking glass. Don’t let your sliding glass doors or other windows become a death trap for birds.

To protect birds, apply special decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight. For example, those from WindowAlert have the appearance of frosted glass, but glow like a stoplight for birds, so you don’t have to compromise your own view out your window. The brand also makes a high-tech liquid called WindowAlert UV Liquid, which should be applied between decals.

“Wildlife can beautify your garden and be a sign that your yard is healthy” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert. “But birds and other wildlife need food, shelter, and safety.”

Get out the binoculars! With a few small actions, you can make your yard or garden a wildlife refuge.

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Enjoy springtime baby animal sightings  


 

Springtime brings sightings of baby animals, like this young fawn hidden in the tall grass. While fawns may seem abandoned, they almost certainly are not. Deer often leave fawns unattended for long periods to help prevent them from being detected by predators.

Springtime brings sightings of baby animals, like this young fawn hidden in the tall grass. While fawns may seem abandoned, they almost certainly are not. Deer often leave fawns unattended for long periods to help prevent them from being detected by predators.

But remember to leave wildlife in the wild

 

With the arrival of spring, wild animals are giving birth and hatching the next generation of Michigan’s wildlife. Baby red foxes appeared in dens during the last days of March and the first days of April. Young great-horned owls have already hatched and are growing up in stick nests high above the ground. Mourning doves have made nests, and some have already laid eggs. The first litters of cottontails will appear soon.

Springtime brings with it an increase in sightings of nestlings and baby animals. The Department of Natural Resources encourages Michigan residents to get outside and enjoy the experience of seeing wildlife raising its young, but reminds them that it is important to remain at a distance.

“These are magical moments to witness but, unfortunately, sometimes the story has a different ending when people take baby wild animals out of the wild,” said DNR wildlife technician Katie Keen. “Please resist the urge to try to help seemingly abandoned fawns or other baby animals this spring. Some people truly are trying to be helpful, while others think wild animals would make good pets, but in most cases neither of those situations ends well for the wildlife.”

“We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild,” Keen added.

The animals most commonly rescued by well-intentioned citizens include white-tailed deer fawns and raccoons.

“Spring is the time for fawns,” said DNR wildlife technician Holly Vaughn.  “Remember a fawn’s best chance for survival is with its mother. Do not remove a fawn that is not injured from the wild.”

“Fawns rely on their camouflage coat to protect them from predators, while their mother stays off in the distance,” Vaughn added. “The mother will not return if people or dogs are present. If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it; just quickly leave it alone. After dark the mother deer will return for her fawn.”

It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn and allows the fawn to go undetected from nearby predators. While fawns may seem abandoned, they almost certainly are not. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way.

Most mammals have a keen sense of smell, and parents may abandon their young if humans have touched them. Other wildlife, such as birds, should not be handled either. Adult birds will continue to care for hatchlings that have fallen from their nest. If people move the hatchlings, the adults may not be able to locate and care for them.
The DNR advises:

It is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan. Every day an animal spends with humans makes it less likely to be able to survive in the wild.

Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.

Some “rescued” animals that do survive become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild.

Eventually, habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behaviors. Habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they mature, and raccoons are well-known for this too.

“If you find any baby animal, it should be left in the wild,” said Vaughn. “The only time a baby animal should be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Please contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator before removing the animal.”
For a list of licensed rehabilitators visit www.michigandnr.com/dlr or call your local DNR office.

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Sandhill Cranes in your Community


Photo by Beth Olson

Photo by Beth Olson

Photo by Brian Stalter

Photo by Brian Stalter

Breeding season for Sandhill Cranes is well underway in Michigan and chances are you have observed these birds in your community. Standing almost four feet tall cranes are easy to notice and entertaining to observe, but Michigan Audubon wants to remind Michiganders to maintain a safe viewing distance and let wildlife be wild. Here are few tips to help you live comfortably together with the Sandhill Cranes in your community.

Give cranes ample space. Sandhill Cranes are large and require a big area in order to take flight. Many people have seen cranes walking across roads, through neighborhoods, and on golf courses. If you encounter cranes while driving a vehicle, garden tractor, or golf cart, make sure to give the birds a wide berth. Sandhill Cranes may not always take flight, especially if they are escorting juvenile cranes called “colts.” Please slow down and let the cranes get to a safe place.

Do not intentionally feed cranes. Michigan Audubon receives reports of Sandhill Cranes taking advantage of backyard bird feeding stations and even cases where cranes are pecking at patio windows. If cranes become regular visitors at a home feeding station, we encourage property owners to take down feeders for a few days and allow the cranes to find natural food on their own. Bringing cranes to your feeding station can put the birds in contact with more potential predators such as domestic dogs, raccoons, foxes and other urban wildlife.

Learn more about cranes. Sandhill Cranes have made a tremendous comeback in Michigan, thanks to a variety of conservation measures. Cranes are regularly observed during spring migration at places like Whitefish Point and Brockway Mountain in the Upper Peninsula. Breeding cranes and adults with young are widely observed throughout Michigan, and because of their size do not even require binoculars to be fully appreciated. This fall Michigan Audubon encourages Michiganders to visit one of the numerous sites in the southern Lower Peninsula where cranes will be staging for migration. The 20th Annual Sandhill Crane & Art Festival, also known simply as “CraneFest,” will take place October 11 and 12 in Calhoun County and includes crane-viewing, special presentations, 25 Michigan artists, and activities for kids. Visit www.cranefest.org for more information.

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Spring weather has bears and other wildlife on the move


 

Although some areas of the state may still have several feet of snow on the ground, Michigan’s wildlife knows the spring season, with an increase in daylight hours, is here. Animals are beginning to wake up from winter hibernation; bears are among those starting to emerge from their dens.

Food and mating are the two drivers behind the increase in wildlife that Michigan residents may be seeing lately. Since bears typically mate in June or July, food is the primary cause for the increase in bear activity during the spring.

“At this time of year, bears are looking for food,” said Department of Natural Resources bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump. “They are hungry after spending months in their dens. While we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, a hungry bear certainly may.”

Each spring, as bears leave their winter dens and resume daily activity, wildlife officials begin receiving calls about bear sightings and even the occasional bear damaging bird feeders, trash cans and grills.

Birdseed, because of its high fat content and easy accessibility, is especially attractive to bears. Once bird feeders are discovered, bears will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeders have been removed.

“The majority of complaints we receive about nuisance bears in the spring involve a food source. The easiest thing people can do to avoid creating a problem is to take in their bird feeders and store other attractants, like grills, trash cans and pet food, in a garage or storage shed,” Bump said. “Once the woods green up, bears tend to move on to find more natural sources of food, as long as they haven’t become habituated to the birdseed or garbage cans.”

Bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard can become habituated to these food sources unintentionally provided by people. This can create an unsafe situation for the bear and become a nuisance for landowners if a bear continuously visits their yard during the day and repeatedly destroys private property in search of food.

DNR Wildlife Division staff members are unable to respond directly to each nuisance bear complaint and instead ask that landowners do their part to help reduce potential food sources in their yards before calling for further assistance. The trapping of nuisance bears is only authorized by DNR wildlife officials in cases of significant property damage or threats to human safety when other techniques have failed.

Anyone who is experiencing problems with nuisance bears and has taken the appropriate action to remove food sources for a period of two to three weeks, but has not seen results, should contact the nearest DNR office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/bear.

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The sound science of clear-cuts


Clear-cuts are used to help regenerate species that can’t compete in mature forests. Two of the most notable species that are clear-cut are aspen and jack pine. In order to maximize regeneration, aspen (pictured) must be clear-cut.



Clear-cuts are used to help regenerate species that can’t compete in mature forests. Two of the most notable species that are clear-cut are aspen and jack pine. In order to maximize regeneration, aspen (pictured) must be clear-cut.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division is in charge of managing the timber on state forest land. The DNR’s Wildlife Division is in charge of managing the critters. But because forestry practices have a big impact on wildlife habitat, the two divisions co-manage state forests to benefit both timber and wildlife. And although the divisions sometimes have different ideas, both agree on one, often misunderstood, technique: clear-cutting.

“Clear-cutting is a sound scientific management technique for harvesting and regenerating certain forest types,” explained Deb Begalle, forest planning and operations section manager with the Forest Resources Division. “Usually it’s for shorter-lived species—such as aspen and jack pine—which are also sun-loving species. They need a lot of sunlight to establish and grow.”

Clear-cutting involves removing virtually all the timber from a stand, which encourages regrowth of the preferred species. But it doesn’t involve stripping the landscape as it did during the timbering era.

“Clear-cutting isn’t what it was 100 years ago,” Begalle said. “We leave some trees in place for a variety of reasons—for wildlife, for aesthetics, sometimes in clumps, sometimes individual trees.

“People are averse to the look of clear-cuts. They see a lot of slash (branches, logs and other debris from natural occurrences or logging operations) on the ground and find it unsightly. But the slash puts nutrients back into the ground as the branches decompose. It also provides micro-habitat for wildlife species, such as salamanders, and brush piles for rabbits.”

DNR wildlife biologist Mark Sargent says young aspen is important to a host of species – grouse, woodcock, deer, rabbits, hare, moose, elk and numerous songbirds.

“In the case of grouse, young aspen stands provide brood-rearing and nesting habitat and, as they grow older, they produce winter food via buds,” he explained. “But young aspen also provides browse for deer, elk and moose—leaves, stems, tops and bark. As the trees grow larger, they grow out of the reach of the animals.”

But along with aspen, Sargent said, come other shade-intolerant plants—raspberries, forbs, dogwood and hawthorns—that provide food or cover for wildlife, too.

“A clear-cut can create outstanding browse and still provide habitat for grouse and woodcock,” he added. “It’s a win-win situation.”

The most critical characteristic of clear-cuts is that they really don’t last long. “We always assure trees are going to grow back quickly,” Begalle said. “In the case of aspen, it will come back so quickly that within a year we have seedlings all over the place.”

Aspen is typically managed on 40- to 60-year rotations for several reasons. That’s not only when the trees have good timber value, but when they’re prime for regenerating.

“The older it gets, the less well aspen regenerates,” Begalle said. “Aspen sort of uses up its vitality. It regenerates through its root system and if it’s losing vitality, it won’t produce as many sprouts.”

While the cuts are well-planned, one of the things the DNR is sometimes criticized for is not leaving buffer areas around clear-cuts.

“We usually do not leave buffers along private property lines, because people then think that’s the property line,” Begalle explained. “A lot people utilize or build on that uncut area because they believe the cut is the property line. And if we left buffers along all the property lines, that would leave thousands of acres unmanaged.

“We try to keep aesthetics in mind,” she continued. “If we have long-lived tree species, such as white pine and oak, we will try to leave those along roadways and private property.”

Clear-cuts do not work for all trees, such as hardwoods or saw-log conifers, but where short-lived, shade-intolerant species are concerned, both Wildlife and Forest Resources division staff agree: Clear-cuts are clearly the way to go.

For more information about how the DNR manages Michigan’s state forest land, visit www.michigan.gov/forestplan.

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